'I was really just overall proud that we stayed up front all day'
Danica Patrick finished seventh in Saturday night’s 5-hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, earning her career-best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish in 57 starts.
For Patrick, the finish was the perfect ending to an impressive weekend at the 1.5-mile oval. The second-year Sprint Cup driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) started ninth on Saturday, her best qualifying effort at a non-restrictor-plate track.
Patrick’s goal was to maintain her spot in the lead pack of cars, and she did just that as a fixture in the top-10. She rarely fell out of the top-15 and she ran has high as third, making some impressive moves along the way.
“Honestly, the most rewarding part of my night was probably when I drove around the outside of the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) on a restart,” Patrick said. “That was probably my most rewarding thing of the night. I say that with all the respect in the world. It’s a big deal because he is Jimmie Johnson. Aside from that I was really just overall proud that we stayed up front all day. That was the biggest thing.
“When the race started it was about finishing the weekend off right and just staying up there. You know you are going to go up, you are going to go down a little bit and we sure enough did that, but we more than held our own through the whole race. I’m extremely proud of this crew for building a new car that was just awesome. It was so good on restarts and long runs and tires getting old. Hard work pays off, and they definitely put the hard work into it. Obviously, I’m really happy for days like today to give back to GoDaddy, who has always been behind me.”
The seventh-place finish came in Patrick’s fourth career Sprint Cup start at Kansas. It was also her first top-10 of the 2014 season and the second top-10 of her career, as she finished eighth in the 2013 Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
“(Crew chief Tony) Gibson did a good job in making changes for the race, and it was good from the get-go,” Patrick said. “And I think what says even more are two things: It was really good on restarts, and it was really good when it wasn’t quite right and really good on long runs. And I think that just goes to show that this is a new car and they built a great one. And we’ve got more of these coming. That’s the even better news.
“But overall, I’m just proud for the team. Kevin (Harvick) has been a great teammate in helping me out, and obviously he was very fast tonight. And I’m happy for GoDaddy, who has always been a big supporter of mine, no matter what. And it’s days like today that hopefully it makes them smile and makes it all pay off a little.”
Gibson could not have been more proud of Patrick and his team’s performance.
“That was one heck of a run by her,” Gibson said. “She drove a really smart, solid race. I know that we got pretty excited with some of the moves she was making when she was passing guys on the outside. It was just fun to watch. It was just a really good weekend for us. We had a good car right off the truck, a good qualifying effort, and we backed that up with a good race. I’m really proud of what Danica did. I’m really proud of the cars that the guys at SHR are building. This is probably one of our best-ever weekends, and hopefully, this will be something that we can build on. We have two big weeks coming up at Charlotte with the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600, and I think she showed what she’s capable of tonight. Just really, really proud for everyone on this team.”
Patrick’s SHR teammate Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent, finishing second. Harvick started from the pole and led four times for a race-high 119 laps en route to his third top-five in 17 career Sprint Cup starts at Kansas. It was his third top-five this season and his 103rd top-five in 477 career Sprint Cup starts.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, started eighth and finished 20th.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for SHR, started sixth and finished 29th after spinning twice.
Jeff Gordon won the 5-hour Energy 400 to score his 89th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at Kansas. He is third behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105) on the Sprint Cup all-time win list.